Christ and Culture Part 1

I’m was an Intercultural Studies major in college. I love learning about different cultures and how to apply the gospel to people’s different worldviews. Just ask me about the 6 months I spent in East Asia doing just that. But when it comes to my own culture, I sometimes get a little baffled as how to engage it, change it, encounter it. Recently I have been thinking about how to know my own culture better in order to think rightly about it through my Christian worldview. If I have learned anything since being at SBTS is that we must not shy away from our culture or be afraid to interact with it. In fact, Christians have a responsibility to confront it head on in order to make the name of Jesus known.

There is a lot of talk out there about Kingdom work, whether or not we as Christians bring the kingdom. I believe that the Bible teaches that God brings the Kingdom. We participate in the Kingdom through our obedience to gather together in our local Churches to hear the Word faithfully preached and then go forth to make the gospel know among the nations. Therefore, our engagement with culture for the sake of the gospel and making Jesus’ name great is THE Kingdom work. *

Matt and I started a new sunday school track yesterday learning about Worldview and Apologetics. I have to admit a little more of my nerd-ism and say that I LOVE this topic. I always have and probably always will. It was really neat to go on Sunday and hear our teacher addressing culture as our first topic after having talked and thought a lot about it recently. He gave a definition of culture as: the sum total of all that humans create which reflects something that we believe.

Although we must not shy away from engaging our culture we must think rightly about how to do this. We can lean to far to the right or the left meaning we can hid from it or we can embrace it. Our teacher laid out three ways in which Christians typically respond to culture:

1) Christ Against Culture- Christians should condemn and separate themselves from culture.

  • This is common among Christians and seemingly rightly so since many places in Scripture say we must be separate from the world (see1 John, OT Israelites, etc)
  • The problem is the paradox that we live in a fallen world yet made in the image of God. We therefore cannot treat all creation as evil. Christians and non-Christians alike make beautiful things in this world- art, books, science, architecture etc.

2) Christ Above Culture- Christians should engage in this world but Heaven takes priority. Still, the world shouldn’t always be condemned.

  • This is very close to what the Gnostics were teaching some of the early believers
  • The problem: the basic materials that God created in our world are good

3) Christ in Culture- Culture is the primary means that God reveals himself and therefore it is our avenue to serve Him.

  • Christians who copy and consume culture are in danger of compromising the gospel
  • When taken too far we loose Christ’s transcendence – Jesus is fully God and therefore above our material world while at the same time being fully man (Christ’s immanence)
  • It also overlooks the Fall, its consequences, and other major portions of Scripture
  • *The problem: the Bible never holds to a hope that we will attain to paradise in this life- therefore our “Kingdom” work should not be that of “renewing the earth” but should be to proclaim the gospel, make disciples etc (Matt. 28:18-20)

* Paul doesn’t go on social campaigns in his letters. He knew the gospel as it works itself out in the world would undercut social problems- (slavery, corrupt government, poverty, abortion, racism, etc.)

So now what do we do with all of this!? Tune in tomorrow for the application and conclusion!

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One thought on “Christ and Culture Part 1

  1. Sounds like a good summary of 3 of Niehbur’s 5 classic options in this regard. I’m partial to a modified form of his “Christ and culture in paradox” approach. Christians must judiciously use culture, critiquing and condemning it as necessary. Thanks for the post.

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